Saturday, August 19, 2006

Gunflint Block Party

Last night was the August meeting of the Gunflint Lake Property Owners Association. This mouth-full of words is really just everyone who has a home on Gunflint, Loon and Tucker Lakes. Some of us are business owners, some are here summers only and some live here all year.

During the summer months we try to get together in June and August. In July we sponsor with other lake groups the Gunflint Canoe Races. August is is our biggest meeting and we had about 60 people for last night's potluck dinner at the fire hall.

Besides dinner, the night includes a meeting at which we discuss the same topics each year: canoe race revenues, dues, garbage collection, septic systems, water quality, etc. The idea is to keep the meeting as short as possible so that we have lots of time to talk with each other. For some it is the only time we see everyone. Lots of stories and laughter echoed through the crowd.

I looked around the room last night and marveled at our diversity. There were people who had just purchased a home talking with a neighbor who came up to Gunflint for the first time in 1934. Some people were the third and fourth generations to be here. Backgrounds and home states spread us all over the map. Small children ate extra desserts along with grandmas who were doing the same thing.

This is an event that I recommend in any neighborhood. The informal format without a burning issue to polarize neighbors is a great way to get to know each other. Years ago we found that we had more in common than expected. Also when you get to know your neighbor, it is easier to work through divisive issues with a friend rather than a stranger.

For what it is worth, spend some time to get to know your neighbors. You will probably find that they are really nice people.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fall Is Coming

I think that everyone, including the wild animals, is starting to feel fall in the air. We are definitely seeing more animals while driving back and forth to town. I have even seen two partridge. Bruce and I saw a skunk crossing the other day.

The other day I drove in with Nancy Kurz. Just after the East Bearskin side road, there was an animal walking along the left side of the road. It looked unusual. As we got closer, we could see it was a large wolf. The animal didn't look at us. It just walked past on the left shoulder. Most wolves I have seen will quickly glance at you and the move off into the woods. I got the feeling that this was a very old animal and not in good health.

Vi Nelson, one of our neighbors, told me her fall animal story. She and a friend were outside in front of the cabin one day when a red squirrel went by. The squirrel had something in its mouth but she couldn't tell what. It went past them and deposited this lump in a sheltered nook. Then the animal went back to the other side of the cabin into a hole. It soon appeared with a furry ball which went over to the nook. Vi finally figured out that the balls were young squirrels. She thinks that Mama was moving the young ones from the summer home to the winter home. Sounds good to me.

When Sheryl and Bonnie made their canoe trip the other day, they reported seeing a large group of loons. We assume that the loons were starting to flock up in anticipation of the migration south. Also the hummingbirds at my feeder are drinking up a storm. They are probably trying to store up a few extra calories before the long flight south. (I am never in a position where I need to store up calories.)

There has been a bear hanging around the lodge. They are hunger in the fall and therefore, a little bolder about coming in around the cabins. We empty the garbage late every afternoon to not attract them. With all the cabins, however, there is almost always something in one or two of them. I hope this bear moves on before it gets into trouble. After another month we won't see bears anymore as they are slowing down their activity in preparation for the long sleep.

Raspberries are really done now. The leaves on the bushes are brown. There are one or two berries but not much more.

I spent a little time gathering lupine seeds today. Next spring they will be scattered on the road shoulder just across from the stable. Several years ago I scattered them between the lodge and the main trail but didn't get back to do any more. Unknown to me, one of the neighbors did the same that spring. If you remember, the South Gunflint Lake road looked like Lupine Lane this June. As I walked the ditches gathering, it was amazing how many young lupines are coming up now.

There are also some tiny white pines growing in the ditch. These will never amount to anything if left in the ditch. Next spring they may just decide to relocated to a more favorable growing area -- my yard. The great-grandchildren will enjoy them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Catching My Breath

Today is the day that I am officially catching my breath. That means the wash is caught up. I made pesto and zuchini relish yesterday so nothing is pressing in the garden. Ok, there are still lots of weeds but they will always be there. We have no guests. Dinner is simple and Bruce went to town.

I have three piles of stuff to deliver to my neighbors and today is the day. My decision was made without regard to the fact that it is a perfect late summer day. I am forced to drive around with clear skies and a pleasantly warm temperature. After lunch I picked up my friend, Eleanor Matsis, to drive along with me.

First stop is on the North Gunflint Lake Road. Dave at Moosehorn gets the most numerous pile of stuff. Some of it came from his wife, Paula. I bet Dave didn't even know it was gone. One item was an old postcard of a Borderland Lodge cabin that I scanned for the historical society. The building is still standing.

On our way out we stop at John Schloot's to return more pictures that I have scanned for the historical society. Although there are two cars, no one is home. I am sure that they are enjoying today on the water somewhere. I left the envelope of pictures between their doors.

Now it is on to the south side of the lake. I have a note that came to me but actually is for John Hendricksson. John and Julie have a beautiful tree-lined driveway. The cedar trees give it a wonderful cool temperature. We stop and talk for a bit before backing out.

Last stop is Vi Nelson's. Vi has been coming up to Gunflint in the summers since she was a small girl. Her cabin was built by her father who was an expert carpenter. He didn't just put boards and nails together. The construction of even a small cabin was planned to be efficient with space and pleasant to the eye. We had a nice chat about many of the useful and unique touches he put into the cabin.

The last thing she showed me was most interesting. It was a old map of Lake Superior. Vi doesn't know how old the map is but I know that it was printed before the U. S.-Canadian border had been definitively settled and surveyed. The lakes from Superior west are not aligned properly. Also the map shows Hunters Island (now in the Quetico Provincial Park) as part of the United States. Today the international boundary goes just south of Hunters Island. This piece of land was hotly disputed during the making of the border. It is my guess that the map was printed before 1822 which is when James Ferguson and George Whistler first surveyed west from Lake Superior along the present border. When this map was printed is going to be a little puzzle that will nag at me until I get it figured out.

As we drove along today, both of us could feel that touch of Indian summer in the air. The days are getting shorter and the nights are finally cooling down regularly. Along the side of the road, the plants and small shrubs are starting to turn color. Fall is definitely coming. After a busy summer, September is wonderful.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cleaning Up the Fire

Hopefully this is my last blog about the Cavity Lake fire. As of now the fire is officially contained. The Forest Service will probably be working all fall picking up equipment and putting out hot spots but the fire is considered out. Last night and today's rain will go a long way is putting out the hot spots but it is amazing at how long these things linger. Winter seems to be the only way to totally get a fire out.

The fire burned approximately 32,000 acres but don't forget that the BWCAW is 1 million acres in size. So there is plenty of room left for canoeing. The cost of the fire was something over $8 million. Think what would have happened if the Forest Service had sold the salavge rights to this area after the blowdown. Someone said they would have gotten $5 million. I don't have any idea if that is at all accurate or not. The point is that the fire would not have burned so hard or far and we would have had a new forest with 7 years of growth. I know, I know that wilderness restrictions do not allow this but there must be someplace that common sense enters is. After all, the Minneapolis Tribune told us the fire was coming.

Here is the ray of sunshine in the fire. Yesterday Sheryl and Bonnie took a day canoe trip through the fire area. They were towed across Sag to Red Rock and then they paddled through Alpine and out Seagull. Along the way they also walked the portage into Jasper Lake.

Sheryl said that she couldn't believe the amount of green that was already sprouting up. This included lots of ferns and grasses. It's not huge trees but it is green. They said that at many campsites the trees were gone but the grasses at tent sites were still green. The fire grates and latrines were in good shape. Canoeists next summer are going to find a much more pleasant experience than they expected. It will be fun to keep track of this area as it grows over the coming years.

Along the portage between Alpine and Seagull, the grass is still growing beside the trail. Before 1999 this was one of the nicest portages in the BWCA. The blowdown took down all the trees and now the fire has burned up the mess. Given the patience of a growing forest, it will once again be a beautiful portage.

So don't write off the Boundary Waters because of this one fire. The canoe country is still there for all of us to enjoy.

Friday, August 11, 2006

South Lake Trail

For over 35 years I have driven past the South Lake Trail but never walked it. Yesterday Bruce and I, Lee and Eva, Eva's mother, Nancy, and grand-dog, Tucker, decided to hike the trail. It was a very interesting trip.

Of course, with this group you are going to have lots of laughs. So as Lee was parking the car next to the road in the "sway" (according to Bruce), Nancy had to chip in, "Is sway a fancy word for ditch?" We laughed about one thing and another from then on.

Just a short bit in on the trail is a long log ramp through a low swampy area. Next you cross the snowmobile trail. All along we passed almost endless raspberry and thimbleberry bushes just loaded with ripe berries. The bunchberries and blue-bead lillies were all along the trail too.

We also saw lots of hazelnut bushes. They were loaded with nuts which is unusual because the squirrels normally eat them up. We picked quite a few to take home. After these nuts have dried for a bit, we plan on taking the shells off and trying to roast them. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Beyond Birch Lake and another pond, we eventually came to Moss Lake. There is a small campsite along the trail. We continued on hoping to make South Lake for lunch. Past Moss Lake the trail in quite overgrown and hard to follow. There are a couple of Y's with no markings to show which way to go. Eventually we turned back before reaching South Lake. If you plan on hiking this, I would suggest turning around at Moss Lake which is a great lunch spot. It is also a great spot for a cooling dip in the lake. We were all envious as Tucker swam around in the water.

We did have one interesting encounter after Moss Lake. Lee heard, and then we all spotted, two bear cubs near a raspberry patch. One was starting to climb a tree but they both ran away. There was no sign of the mother which was nice. In all my years up here, it was the first time I have seen a bear while walking in the woods. It was a nice highlight for our day.

When we returned to the car, there was only one way to go -- back to Trail Center for malts. It was a perfect ending to our hike.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tiny Tidbits

One of the projects of the new Gunflint Trail Historical Society is to collect oral histories from the oldtimers in the area. So today Linda Hendrickson and I went off to interview a couple of men connected with Chik-Wauk Lodge. Carl Nunstedt was the son of Chik-Wauk founder, Ed Nunstedt and the brother of Art Nunstedt who also owned the lodge. Norbert Mayer was the stepson of Art Nunstedt.

After setting up the video camera and tape recorder, Linda and I started the interview. I should explain that while these interviews are always interesting and fun, you rarely learn earth-shaking facts. What you get are tiny tidbits of information that enhance things you already know. So what did we learn today?

Linda had a lot of questions regarding the main lodge at Chik-Wauk. She is working with the Forest Service to get the lodge on the National Registry of Historic Places. So we learned that the roof shingles on the lodge had originally been red. All the rock in the building was gathered from the shore of Saganaga Lake. This included the amythest on the fireplace. The rock porch on the lodge was left over from the log lodge that burned.

We learned a little more about the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camps on the Gunflint Trail. I never realized that the Seagull Camp was located where the Seagull Guard Station of the Forest Service is presently located. I know that those who were based there considered it the most remote CCC camp in the country. They also published a newsletter called "The Gunflint Trailer."

We learned a little more about the extention of the Gunflint Trail from Seagull Lake to Saganaga Lake. Art Nunstedt and Russell Blankenburg wanted the road to get to Saganaga because they both had property that they wanted to develop on Sag. The Forest Service would not give them an easement to cross government land. So Russell bought up small parcels of private land to build the road on. Art was in charge of the actual building. He hired a crew who used corduroy logging and gravel to cross the wet areas. The road went from Seagull Resort (now the Blankenburg Public Landing) to the entrance to Chik-Wauk's road (now off the Moose Pond Road). Russell extended the road from that point to this property and built Saganaga Fishing Camp. The name was changed to End of the Trail Lodge by Al Hedstrom, a later owner. Now we know this piece of land as the "guides' landing" on Saganaga because all the fishing guides park their vehicles and trailers there. Some remnants from End of the Trail Lodge are the beautiful lilac bushes that bloom each spring.

Norbert also loaned us a bunch of pictures to copy from the early days of the Trail. It is fun to see pictures of these two men when they were younger. They have so many stories to share with us that time flies by. After two hours it was time to say goodbye. When we listen to our tapes, I am sure that even more questions will come to mind. But today we learned a few more pieces of the history of this wonderful part of the country.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I think that the beginning of August is panic time for many of us up here. Some of the plants on the sides of the roads are starting to turn brown. Summer is marching into fall. I have my mental list of things to do and am starting to check things off.

Today I made the last batch of raspberry jam. I think there are about 50 jars. Of course, the good news is that Bruce will let me eat some fresh raspberries now that we have lots of jam.

Zucchini relish is coming along nicely. I was in great shape until Lee and Eva decided to add a brat to the Red Paddle menu. They need some relish to serve with it. So Saturday Fred and Fran Smith and I made 4 gallons of relish. I probably will need to do that again. Does anybody have a guess as to how many brats we will serve in the bistro this winter?

Cherry tomatoes are slowly starting to ripen. Bruce found six yesterday. Eva eats them like candy which is about right when they come off the vine. We will all be in that patch pretty soon.

The other tomatoes are coming along. There are lots of them but they need a little more time. This year we are going to try to freeze whole tomatoes for winter. The book says that to use these frozen tomatoes, thaw them and the skin will just peel off. Then they can be put into soups or sauces.

I blanched and froze 19 packages of green beans the other night. There is probably just as much out there now. That's another winter pleasure.

Wednesday I am going to start making pesto. The basil has been particularly good this year. My friend Bev Johnson gave me a great pesto recipe. I put it in 1 cup containers and freeze it for winter.

Peppers are not quite ready yet. When they come I will be trying jalapeno jam. I have been told it is great. Anybody have a recipe?

Otherwise we are basking in warm summer weather. These days are to be savored because they won't last long. Of course, September is coming and that is the best month of all for me. I just love those warm fall days. Walking along and kicking fallen leaves is a great treat. With any luck we will get out to fish for lake trout just before the season closes. The opening of partridge season also brings a new eating delight to the Kerfoot table. I cook it slowly with Cream of Mushroom soup. The sides we have with it are wild rice and baked acorn squash. My mouth is watering now.

Have a good day and enjoy the summer.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Gunflint Lodge Web Cam

People regularly ask if we have gotten rid of the webcam. The answer is no we have not gotten rid of the webcam. The address of where you can find the webcam is

In the past we have shown different views on the webcam. Initially the webcam was used to show people the waterfront. After showing this for several years we thought guests would want to see some of the changes going on at Gunflint. So when we started construction on new cabins we moved the webcam to show the action. This was popular with guests who had reservations for the new cabins. After the construction was finished we moved the camera back to its original location of overlooking the beach and dock area.

Now as the internet continues to grow in popularity we have more people asking to see what the property looks like. So in addition to loading our website with lots of pictures we have the webcam. If you have any suggestions about places you would like us to overlook with the webcam please let us know and we will see what we can do.

Have a good day!


Shopping Spree

Yesterday I spent the day in Duluth. Grandson Tanner and his friend Keane were going home. I met Shawn at the mall and transferred the two boys. My two other passengers were Jamaican students who were going to Duluth for their first day of real shopping since arriving here in June.

Like most Americans, these two gals are used to living near some shopping. Gunflint is a long way from the nearest mall. Kerri Ann had been here last year so she had the list of shops to visit: T. J. Maxx, Target, K-Mart, Kohls and, finally, the MALL. I was just the driver. The girls powered shopped at each place. I would drive off for one of my stops. The back of the car gradually filled with bags.

Kerri Ann remember how last year Bruce took them to Duluth. Bruce absolutely hates shopping. So last year he was amazed at how much four girls could buy. Kerri remembers him saying that there must not be any plastic bags left in Duluth.

By 3:30 I met the girls in the food court at the Mall. They were starved, broke and exhausted. Takeouts from the Chinese restaurant were their last purchases. They ate in the car as we drove home.

A mad buying day in Duluth is nothing new. Before Internet shopping it was the only choice that we had. When Robert and Lee were in school, we spent one day each August buying their new school clothes: six pair of pants, six shirts, underwear, socks, shoes, a new jacket, etc. for each boy. It was always best for family dynamics if Bruce didn't come along and didn't know how much I spent. Most mothers can relate to that situation.

It was good to return to the woods last night. Bruce had dinner ready. We were the only two people in our house. Nighttime brought pleasantly cooling temperatures. It got dark a little earlier than in July. We both passed out in bed.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Harvest Heaven

I have never lived on a farm but I assume that harvest time is the same there as it is here -- lots of work to get everything in at the perfect level of ripeness. Between our garden and the wild berries, there is no end.

Wild raspeberries have been wonderful this year. I have about 50 jars of jam and Bruce still wants more. He was out picking at 7:30 this morning. You can be assured that the Kerfoots will have lots of raspberry jam to share.

Blueberries are a different story. Either we picked too early or too late or after everyone else. The upshot was there will be no blueberry jam for us this year. We did get enough for pancakes throughout the winter which is really more important. Bruce is our pancake maker and his combination of banana, blueberry and walnut pancakes can't be beat.

That leaves the garden. The lettuce has gone to seed. There are enough cucumbers for the entire neighborhood. Green beans are wonderful and will be frozen this afternoon. Basil is the best every. After the lodge uses it, I will be making pesto and freezing it for the winter. Parsley will be dried for use throughout the winter. Zucchini is abundant and I make enough relish to keep us all going plus we have enough to supply the lodge with all it's needs. We can't eat the broccoli fast enough.

Several things still need to ripen. Corn looks good and I freeze all we don't eat. We will have Indian corn to decorate around the lodge with. Pumpkins are going to be huge. Bruce went on a squash planting binge. So we have acorn, hubbard, and spaghetti squash coming in like there is no tomorrow. It will be interesting using all of the squash. I binged on peppers. There will be big crops of sweet bell peppers, chili peppers and jalepeno peppers. Potato plants and carrots also look good. We have 15 garlic plants that are huge. Garlic is a first for us so we will see what happens. Finally, we have lots of green tomatoes and will tax even the lodge's ability to use them all up.

As I read back over the blog, even I am amazed at how much there is to harvest. We really are enjoying eating every bit of it. During the winter, it will be heaven to empty the freezer..